Exploring networked learning and phenomenology

It was such a joy to meet up yesterday – with Dr Lucy Osler, Cardiff University philosophy and, in spite of many toils and trials, Dr Felicity Healey-Benson, in triumph following recent viva success!! Warmest congratulations to Felicity!!

Lucy joined Cardiff last summer from completing a post doc at the Center for Subjectivity Research at the University of Copenhagen, run by Dan Zahavi, attached to a project run by Thomas Szanto. We are thrilled that Lucy has agreed to provide an opening chapter for our collaboration, ‘Phenomenological Perspectives on Networked Learning’. Lucy aims to explain what philosophical phenomenology offers the field of networked learning and, since NL is a new field for her, we spent some time discussing its definition and distinctives. I am thrilled that Lucy is keen to help. Phenomenology has been a contested space, and many point to it as key to their research. There are all shades of claims made to verify a project’s phenomenological credentials, with anything from a brief mention of Husserl, to more elaborate frameworks. With our book, we aim to portray some of this diversity, disavowing sectarianism, but Lucy’s chapter should set us out with a voice from the same philosophical river of which Heidegger spoke.

I was happy to lend Lucy my copy of Chris Jones’ (2015) book and observed that many scholars coming afresh to NL struggle with the term, and even feel the need to seriously challenge it. I find it helpful to refer to Peter Goodyear’s blog post where he explains that, originally, networked learning was not ‘our’ choice, but that of a UK funding body:

In the circumstances – late 1990s, UK Higher Education – it was quite likely that Jisc would fund proposals that focussed only on individual use of online learning materials (given the interest in personalised learning and more efficient “delivery” of education). We were keen to create other opportunities: a more ambitious conception of what was possible and worthwhile. We weren’t introducing the term “Networked Learning” – we were expanding what it meant and beginning to shift the core of its meaning.

See  https://petergoodyear.net/2020/09/30/convivial-technologies-and-networked-learning/

Thus, arguably more central to whatever else we mean by networked learning these days is the keenly felt need to contend for education along ‘critical and emancipatory’ lines. Although the newer NL definition takes a post-digital approach by presuming ICT, rather than explicitly mentioning it, I tend to agree with Chris Jones who still (see NLEC et al. 2021) holds out for the importance of explicitly circumscribing the definition with information technology because otherwise NL is in danger of becoming a ‘theory of everything’, and, quite possibly, nothing of very much analytical purchase, or saying much more than good old humanism… which was how it felt at the SHRE ‘relational pedagogies’ book launch on Tuesday, surely ‘connections’ that NL scholars have been ‘promoting’ for decades. Yet we all need to keep an eye on Hannah Sfard’s wisdom,  ‘On Two Metaphors for Learning and the Dangers of Choosing Just One.’

Jones, C.R. 2015. Networked learning : an educational paradigm for the age of digital networks. London: Springer.

Networked Learning Editorial Collective (NLEC) et al. 2021. Networked Learning in 2021: A Community Definition. Postdigital Science and Education 3(2), pp. 326–369. doi: 10.1007/s42438-021-00222-y.

Osler, L. 2021. Taking empathy online. Inquiry , pp. 1–28. doi: 10.1080/0020174X.2021.1899045.

Osler, L. and Zahavi, D. 2022. Sociality and Embodiment: Online Communication During and After Covid-19. Foundations of Science . Available at: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10699-022-09861-1 [Accessed: 3 October 2022].

Sfard, A. (1998). On Two Metaphors for Learning and the Dangers of Choosing Just One. Educational Researcher, 27(2), 4. https://doi.org/10.2307/1176193

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